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KDaddy’s General Observation: What I Really Need

I have two of the most sophisticated pieces of technology in the world today – an iPad and an iPhone. I am, admittedly, the guy who once said that I’d never own anything that Apple made… until I got my first (and only) iPod and given what it could do, yeah, I got my mind changed to a point.

iTunes is still the worst program I’ve ever had to work with although I understand the necessity for it but this isn’t what I’m riffing about. Here, hold my beer…

I subscribe to Apple Music, first out of curiosity – is it really as good or bad as I’ve been hearing? – then because $9.99 isn’t that bad of a price to get music I’m not gonna mind listening to and music that can go along with all the music I possess on my computer and, um, a shitload of CDs and some with music not available on Apple Music.

Streaming music is the thing now; why clog up your device of choice with stuff when you can stream whatever you wanna hear from the cloud? Oh, that’s right – some of the music I wanna hear ain’t in the cloud and may never be. But, okay: When I signed up for Apple Music, it took a week’s worth of music – that’s listening to it for a week and not hear the same song twice – and shuffled it into the cloud and freeing up gigabytes of precious space on my devices… but I’m stuck with Apple’s crappy player/interface and I still gotta sync both to insure peak performance and all that.

I had a couple of really good player apps that let me listen to my music in the way I wanted to; I could customize the sound I hear and based on earbud/headphone “protocols,” EQ setting based and optimized for a boatload of listening tools and they looked great, sounded even better and I was happy.

Until Apple made sure that those apps couldn’t access Apple Music or any music I may have bought from them prior to Apple Music. I’d be listening to a playlist that included and one such piece of music and, what the fuck? I know it’s in the playlist – why didn’t it play? Then I found out why and, believe it or not, I wasn’t pissed about it – all I gotta do is to find a player that Apple has allowed to access, in this case, Apple Music.

And I found one and only one appropriately named “Listen.” And it sucks. The interface is gesture based, can’t see any of my playlists and, wow, has a radio function that I don’t fucking want or need. I’ve looked at a shitload of apps in the App Store and they’re most,y for streaming music and, often, not the music I’d be remotely interested in, oh, like offering “stations” like hip-hop and country, both of which I have no desire to listen to. Or it an app can access my music that now resides in Apple’s cloud, I can’t do much about the way it sounds in my ears, let alone my built-in speakers.

And most won’t or can’t access certain audiobooks that, before this stuff came into being, I could do easily enough. Some offer podcasting… like I care about that; I’m offered lists of music or stations of music that I’d have to listen to god knows how ,any songs before I might hear something I might like but because the way the “music player” is built um, nope – can’t listen to my own music unless I do the unthinkable and physically put back gigabytes of music from my thousands of CDs – and then hope the “music player” can access the music I’ve actually paid for.

The default player for Apple, such as it is, isn’t that horrible but I am wondering how a song from a jazz “album” can be classified as R&B. Oh, I can change that… but that means going into iTunes and no matter what they e done to “improve” it, iTunes still sucks donkey dick and there’s no guarantee that changes I make to my music library is going to stay changed to my preferences… and if I even see them at all.

Why not go Android? Because they don’t make a device that can handle the amount of music I’d want to put on it, that’s why. SD card, you say? Well, hmm, Android devices are funny about what can go on an SD card and I know because I also have an Android tablet. I could get Apple Music on Android… but that’s an unnecessary duplication since, uh, I have two devices that’s already sharing all of that music to begin with and, oh, yeah, my Samsung table, as nice as it is, loves running out of both space and memory, likes to crash, have stuff just stop working for unknown and inexplicable reasons.

Use Spotify or some other service? I could do that but I have Spotify; I had it look for some songs I either already owned or obtained via Apple Music and, nope, on,ya found one of them… but it does have plenty of music I’m not interested in listening to.

I just want to listen to the music I want to listen to and the way I wanna hear it. My JetAudio app used to do that and, oh, yeah, now it can’t because all of my music is in Apple’s cloud so I can open the app… and it sees nothing. Well, let me be precise and not overly exaggerate things: It sees and plays the music that was physically on the device but is now in the cloud – still won’t play anything I bought or downloaded via Apple Music. I know that’s because that music doesn’t have Apple’s DRM protocols attached but, damn it, I want a comprehensive player that will play all of my music no matter where or who I got it from and one I can set up the way I want to listen to my music and without “bells and whistles” like “radio stations” I have no interest in.

It’s not so much the service i have issue with – I’ve come to like Apple Music but, yeah, hate the stock player because I can’t customize the sounds I hear to my liking.

Okay, yeah – I’m not only funny about the music I listen to, I’m funny about how i actually hear it. The built-in EQ for Apple’s player ain’t bad but cannot be tweaked or fine-tuned. I’m a life-long musician and when I listen to a song, I want to be able to hear every instrument and some default EQ setting, bleh, cut out the midrange stuff, too much treble, not enough bass – you get the picture.

Apple has revamped iOS in some very good ways – except this one. The player is… merely adequate and this ain’t good enough for me… and the many apps available leave much to be desired. Apple touts the iPhone as being great for taking pictures and videos and streaming content… but not listening to it, that and I didn’t get it to take pictures with anyway. The new iPads are supposed to replace laptops… but the music program on my laptop and desktop can be made to sound the way I want it to – and both my iPhone and iPad both costs more than my computer does.

Go figure. I know I’m just riffing… because I felt like riffing.

 
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Posted by on 21 December 2019 in KDaddy's General Observations

 

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KDaddy’s General Observations: Two Songs

I’ve been a musician since I was seven, formally trained and all that, even spent a lot of years being in bands in school and not even school related and, as such, when I listen to music, some songs are just nice while others are like, wow – talk about being moved by either the lyrics or the musicality of the song itself.

For the last, oh, month or so, two songs have seriously gotten my attention which, overall, isn’t all that unusual by itself except, well, let’s say that it’s a good thing that you can’t wear out a song file all that easily.

The first song is one by a collaboration of musicians that until I heard this song, I never heard of them – except for their drummer. Vinny Valentino, Baron Browne, and drummer Joel Rosenblatt has a song on their album, “Double B Double V,” entitled, “Shake Me” and it’s a spirited, jazzy kind of song although Apple Music classifies the song in the R&B genre. The lyrics are cool and sassy with vocals provided by Chrissi Poland, who seems to also be their resident keyboardist and one of my favorite part of the lyrics is when she says, “Being with me is better than being alone…”

Joel Rosenblatt, formerly the drummer for my favorite jazz group, Spyro Gyra, well, that dude is just fucking amazing with his technique and beats and is one of those drummers who, even when I see him kicking it, makes me wonder, “How does he do that?” He’s just so fluid when he plays and makes the most intricate patterns sound amazing but looks effortless. It takes some, ah, interesting coordination to be able to play drums, getting your hands and feet to pretty much operate on their own but in a coordinated way and, sure, the better your kit is, the better you’re gonna sound… but Joel’s coordination is almost otherworldly as he flows over his kit.

I know that on some songs, some parts are “tricks” of recording, being able to lay down an initial track then go back and add additional tracks, something that’s pretty common but when you hear Joel play, what you hear is what he’s actually doing and it just amazes me how much stuff he can “cram” into a measure of music. Listening to him play – and seeing him perform when he was with Spyro Gyra – has influenced the way I play, just as the late, great Buddy Rich got me interested in playing the drums.

The second song that I’ve been wearing out comes from a smooth jazz artist that, again, I’d never heard of before I stumbled across the song. Steven “Euge Groove” Grove, I found, was a saxophonist for Tower of Power back in the day and, to be honest, not only did I not know this – and ToP is one of my favorite groups – I don’t remember how I found this song. The album is “Got 2 Be Groovin'” and the song is “In Love With You,” with Chanel Haynes providing the haunting, soulful vocals – and before hearing this song, I’d never heard of her, either but a bit of research revealed her gospel roots.

I’m taken with the lyrics and Chanel’s voice; you can hear how happy and joyous she feels about being in love and combined with the song’s score, wow, it just reaches out and touches the right places in me. There’s nothing… flashy about the music itself but the composition is magical and, as mentioned, haunting. The musician in me can listen to the individual parts of the song, a trick that, honestly, I don’t know how I do it although I’m sure that during my training, well, I learned how to do it and it’s something I just do without having to think about it. The drum track is simple but sweet, the bass line is also uncomplicated but in a way that just grabs me but, oddly, one of the things I don’t quite like about the song is Euge’s sax interludes and, for me, I think he’s playing the wrong sax; my ears tells me he’s playing the alto sax when, maybe, the soprano sax would have been a better sound choice… but that doesn’t mean much since I didn’t compose the song.

There’s a… breathiness in the way he plays on this song that doesn’t sound… clean to me; I’m not sure I can explain that except that while the sax parts are nicely woven into the song as a whole, they just don’t seem to really belong there, like the song would be just as good without the saxophone but, again, that’s just my opinion and doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely love this song.

Musically, the meter of the song is… off just a tad and I can hear it in the keyboard parts of the song and that’s one of the things that makes the song so interesting to me as a keyboardist and, indeed, it was the first thing I noticed about the song when I first listened to it; my keyboardist brain said, “Hmm, that’s just a bit off… but I like it!” In music, timing is everything and in another weird way, I can see how this was written in my mind to be just a tad bit off from the 4/4 flow of the song itself.

I stick my earbuds in, open the special playlist I created just for these two songs… and I listen; I get lost in them. One gets me energized, the other gets me feeling the mood of the song and carried away by the flow of it. Both are musically and vocally engaging.

I do question Apple Music’s classification of “Shake Me,” though. Like I said, it’s in the R&B genre when it’s clear to me that it’s more of a jazz composition than an R&B one but, again, that’s just my own opinion but, hey, if you want to, you can give it a listen and make your own determination on the genre of the song. If you don’t have Apple Music or some other service, you can hear both songs on YouTube.

I listen to a lot of music; most of the space on my iPhone and iPad is taken up by music more than apps and I keep telling myself that I need to get in there and clean things up and to remove music that I haven’t listened to in a while… except, there’s no telling when a particular song is going to pop into my head and needs to be listened to again.

Oh, well.

 
 

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Give Da Drummer Some!

Give Da Drummer Some!

When I was in the third grade, I learned to play trumpet under the watchful eye of Mrs. Frankel; I clearly remember being in the music room with the others learning trumpet and because we were standing up, I, um, passed out because I had locked my knees instead of being relaxed.  Not an auspicious moment but kinda funny.

The church around the corner – and what’s ironic/funny is that today, it’s my cousin Aretha’s church – had a beautiful five manual organ and that instrument just fascinated me so much that the church organist, a really nice lady, started teaching me how to play it, even though I was way too short for my feet to reach the pedals and my arms too short to reach the upper three manuals.  Music just came naturally to me; learning how to read music (and, later, write it) was just too much fun.  Being a trumpeter, wow, there were so many great trumpeters, from Louis Armstrong to Al Hirt, who got my attention for playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” for the TV show, “The Green Hornet,” which also introduced America to Bruce Lee as “Kato.”  And I wanted to learn how to play it just like Al Hirt did!

My music teacher, Mr. Bowie, himself an amazing trumpeter, didn’t think I could do it – you should see the sheet music; it made my eyes hurt the first time I saw it!  But I was determined and I spent many hours in the practice room just totally messing it up and being more than envious when Mr. Bowie would take my trumpet and play the piece with stupid ease.  I finally got it, even played it for the school talent show… and then I got interested in playing the drums.

To shorten this just a bit, there were a lot of drummers who inspired me; I had gotten my hands on a kit and spent hours driving my mom nuts teaching myself how to play it, which just came easily to me and, eventually at the ripe old age of 15, I was in a band with four of my friends and playing gigs all over the place, including the world-famous Apollo Theater in New York.  In high school, I played trumpet for marching band and orchestra and drums for jazz band – but only after becoming a member of the National Association of Rudimentary Drummers; passing that test wasn’t easy, nor was learning how to execute all those rudiments.

A lot of years later, my favorite group, Spyro Gyra, changed drummers, a guy named Joel Rosenblatt… and his drumming style was mesmerizing.  When I went to my first SG concert, wow, Joel’s Tama drum kit and setup was insane for a drummer in a “jazz” band; that and how easy and smoothly he handled that kit just blew me away and inspired me to put together a new kit of my own while challenging me to duplicate his style which even today makes me nuts but, yeah, I got to the point where I could play along with Spyro Gyro’s music without having to work so hard.

At another SG concert, I got to meet Joel and the rest of Spyro Gyra, including keyboardist Tom Schuman – playing his parts on their music was equally challenging but so much fun.  They quickly learned I was a fellow musician and I was able to spend a few precious moments talking drumming with Joel and keyboards with Tom and I think both were genuinely flattered that I was all into their styles of playing.  Hell, I’ll even admit to daydreaming about sitting in with SG and playing Joel’s kit, pictured (hopefully) in my featured image.  And, yes, I can play that kit…

Joel left Spyro Gyro to pursue other interests after over a decade with the group and while they’ve tried several drummers to replace Joel, well, those guys are good… but they ain’t Joel…

 
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Posted by on 14 October 2016 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Prince

I was shocked to learn of his death, like many others who enjoyed his rather unique brand of music.  When he came on the scene and I heard his music for the first time, it was… different yet kinda familiar and, as a musician myself, I realized that what was different about his music is that it kinda didn’t “make sense” when you first listened to it and his lyrics often had me asking, “What is he trying to say?”

Then I saw “Purple Rain…” and his music suddenly made sense given that the movie was a kind of backhanded story about his life and, for me, why his music sounded the way it did.  Once I understood him, wow, I’d listen to “Purple Rain” and it would often bring tears to my eyes because the song and it’s lyrics were so hauntingly beautiful; adding his music to my collection just made sense.

Years later, my daughter opened a box of cereal for her kids… and won a grand prize for an all-expense paid trip to NYC and included VIP tickets to Prince’s “Musicology” tour.  I’d been listening to his special brand of music for years, had seen him on TV a few times, but had never seen him in concert and word was he usually put on one hell of a show.  As the limo dropped us off at Madison Square Garden the night of the concert, we were all excited and the musician/performer in me was really amped to see this musical legend perform right before my eyes… and it was everything I expected it to be and then some; his energy on stage was contagious and he just made you share in the fun he was having in front of a sold-out  MSG.

I still have my autographed “Musicology” CD from that night.

And now he’s gone… and like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gerald Levert, and Luther Vandross, and so many others, Prince’s special and unique style of music will live on forever.

 
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Posted by on 23 April 2016 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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It’s Stuck!

One of the things that has always kinda bugged me is waking up with a song stuck in my head.  As a musician, I’m always thinking about music, either songs that already exist or great musical scores I’m concocting in my head that have yet to become real music.  But that morning song thing?  Makes me nuts!

Today’s stuck song is Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and, as usual, I have no idea why this particular song has decided to engrave itself into my consciousness.  It’s a great song, fantastic horns and good vocals even though I’ve never understood how the song’s title relates to anything – but, hey, sometimes, that just happens, right?  But the way I usually get a song unstuck is to listen to it and, yeah, sometimes, that doesn’t help.

There are quite a few theories about why this happens to people as well as things one can do about this and while I understand the science a little – at least I kinda get what they’re saying about it – it’s just weird to be asleep then wake up… then your internal jukebox starts playing before you actually sit up and start your day.  The phenomenon is so random, too, like my mental jukebox is locked in shuffle mode – there’s no telling what song or genre is going to be playing once I make the shift from unconscious to conscious – it’s like my brain is playing “Reveille” and announcing the start of the day or something.

One way to get rid of the earworm, as they’re called, is to read a book and I guess it’s to distract your mind from having a song looping around in your head… except that doesn’t work for me; I can read, write a blog, doing something on my computer or even focusing on playing Borderlands 2 – and that song will just keep looping until I listen to it – and that’s provided I have it on my computer and I don’t have to go digging through all of my CDs to find it and, yeah, I’ve done that a few times because the damned thing won’t go away until I do!

Once I listen to it, it’s like the earworm is satisfied and, poof, no more looping song!  Or, um, it gets me to thinking about similar songs that I haven’t heard in a while – and my earworm seem to choose songs I haven’t listened to in a coon’s age, like the morning I awoke to “Love on a Two-way Street,” a song I haven’t heard in at least five years – but I do have it in my music collection.

I get that songs that are catchy – even the ones used in commercials – can get your attention during the day… but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always awakened to that stuck song that I haven’t heard for however long it’s been, like waking up to Mandrill’s “Children of the Sun” the other day – it seems that my earworm doesn’t like songs that I don’t like or, even better, songs written by people that I’ve never heard.  Like, I don’t listen to Lady Gaga so I have no idea what her music sounds like nor do I own any of it.  So it seems that my morning earworm only selects music performed by people I’ve heard before and then only the songs that I actually like.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, such as it is; because I’m getting older and thanks to the stroke I had,  I know my memory’s suspect at times – but I can remember an earworm-induced song right down to the key it’s written in – how weird is that?  I just find it funny that a few seconds after my conscious mind turns itself on to wake me up, a song gets stuck – and then I’m making myself nuts humming it until I relent and actually listen to the song.

I wonder what tomorrow’s song is gonna be?

 
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Posted by on 1 May 2013 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Ah, The Classics

As some of you who have been following me, I love classical music.  I fell in love with Bach in junior high school and, as a musician, dove head first into many composers.  So, I was skulking around the web looking for a particular piece of music (Beethoven’s Adagio Cantabile) and found “The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Words …Ever!” a four-CD set of what I’d call classic classical music.

All of my favorites are on here – Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and some I haven’t heard in a while so I plan on listening to the set… if I can get past this one piece.  See, I’m one of those listeners of music who will latch onto a song and just play it over and over… because I really got into it.  The first time I heard, “Lascia ch’io pianga, (written by Handel)” it was rather beautifully done by Sarah Brightman – you should hear her version of “Ave Maria.”  Now, your boy doesn’t speak Italian… but after hearing Sarah singing it, I not only hunted down the words translated into English, I went and got the sheet music so I could learn how to play it… and decided that it sounds better sung in Italian than English

So when I see this beautiful piece of music on the four-CD set, I knew I had to listen to it just to see how it might differ from the only other version I’ve heard… and I was just fucking blown away by what I heard.  The first twenty-five seconds of the song is done a capella by a choir of women; it is so heavenly I had to make myself stop flicking the progress bar on my iPod back to the beginning just so I could listen to those twenty-five seconds over and over.

Ah… I can understand why this song was chosen for this CD set.  At night, before I go to sleep, I slip on my Bose QC-3 headphones and let the music play until my eyelids grow heavy.  The harmonies are exquisitely done and the lead vocalist’s voice is crisp and clear and so much so that you can hear her rolling the R’s where it’s needed.  Musically, it’s ‘simple’, growing in complexity as the song comes to an end; harp and pizzicato strings in the beginning makes this so soft and soothing; a cello interlude is nicely done as well.

I’m sure there are other versions of this song out there and other interpretations, too.  I’ve heard Sarah’s version and now this one and I’m wondering if anyone else has done this piece this well.  If I had to compare the two, I like them both; I think the solo vocalist’s voice is a tad bit better than Sarah’s and, trust me, that girl is no slouch so you should try to find these two wonderful versions, listen to them, and decide for yourself…

 
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Posted by on 1 December 2012 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Must Be the Music

I am momentarily frustrated.  While sitting here doing stuff, a piece of music popped into my head from a very long time ago:  The Deep River Suite by Frank Erickson.  You guys know I’m a musician but you probably don’t know I got started when I was 7 with the trumpet and, yup, I played in the elementary school orchestra – and this particular piece of music – and another one I cannot remember the name of – has stuck with me over the years.

I can remember the music – it’s both rousing and haunting; the suite contains three pieces:  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Deep River, and Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.  Once again, memory is an amazing thing because not only can I recall in detail the day we played this piece in assembly, I can remember every single part of the suite.  Deep River is one of the pieces I use to practice with at times, too.  Good, huh?  Wait, it gets better…

With the Deep River part rolling through my mind I wondered if the music still exists in physical form – and it does… except it seems that Mr. Erickson wrote the suite for saxophone and woodwind quartet and, um, apparently not for full concert band or orchestra in that sense.  But I remember it and I doubt that Mrs. Frankel, my music teacher, re-arranged this suite for full concert band/orchestra; I mean, she could have but I remember the full score for this – and it wasn’t handwritten like some of the stuff she used to do for us at times.

I’d have to come up with $6.99 for the “version” I found and since I can read music written for different instruments – and I have a Korg music workstation – I can reproduce the suite with all the required instruments and I think this’ll be a nice project for me to undertake; gotta keep the music skills sharp as well.

Now, it is possible that someone rearranged Mr. Erickson’s woodwind quartet version for orchestra; if so, I need to find it if I can (the Korg can do that, too).  I can crank up my SONAR software and start sequencing all of the parts, blending them together so I can literally be a one-man orchestra – oh, I do so love this stuff!  This will allow me to edit the sequences to, um, get the mistakes out and when it’s perfect, I can wave my fingers over the computer and now I have a file that can be played on the computer, burned to CD, etc.

I’m kinda wondering why this piece of music got stuck in my head; maybe because it’s all wet and dreary here today because of the off-and-on rain…

 
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Posted by on 6 December 2011 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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